Canada's Queen of R&B returns to P.A.

Keely Dakin
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Canada’s Queen of R&B Jully Black will be honeying up the stage at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Feb. 7.

Jully Black plays Prince Albert's E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Feb. 7. Tickets are $43.05 for adults and $24.68 for students.

This will not be her first time in Prince Albert.

Last summer Black recorded a song with local musician Donny Parenteau. Afterwards they performed for the evening at Movado’s pub on Second Avenue, during the summer of 2012.

“We flew in to record All Right With Me, on his album,” she said.

When work was done they were still high on music and they headed to the pub and took over the stage.

“We showed up at this pub and did like an impromptu concert. It was really fun … unannounced. Yeah it was really nice and intimate,” Black said.

Playing unannounced for a small group of people is not something Black does very much anymore.

Black has recorded four albums since 2003 and will be releasing her fifth, much awaited album, (8)IGHT, this year. She has also had several singles on the charts.

Black has opened for Celine Dion in Jamaica and Kanye West in Singapore, as well as headlining the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and being the main act for Canada Day celebrations in London, England.

While fans wait for (8)IGHT, Black is keeping their attention by releasing a free 11-song EP online under the name of DROPPING W(8).

Black must be bursting with music.

“That was songs that we recorded in the process of getting (8)IGHT prepared. You know we just had so many songs we just thought, lets not make the fans wait and lets drop the weight off,” Black explained.

(8)IGHT is still in progress.

“We are taking our time to make sure it’s right,” Black said.

“It’s the new Motown sound. You know if Tina Turner and Etta James were to have a baby it would be Jully Black. You know a lot of people are familiar with the soul of my voice and they still love the rhythms and so it just blended the sounds together and it’s really paying homage to the old, but it’s a new time, we are able to just make a fusion,” she said.

The sounds of the band are prominent in the (8)IGHT, she said.

“Horns and strings. We brought the elements back.”

One person who has had a very significant impact on the newest album is her producer and co-writer YoungPete Alexander.

“He’s from out of Atlanta and he’s been in Toronto for a while, back and forth, so he’s able to absorb the flavour of here and get to know my voice and my story and the sound … and tailor an outfit for me, so it’s not so much of a compilation … sometimes if you’re making an album, it becomes a compilation of various writers, various producers,” she explained.

With Alexander’s help, Black is reaching for that cohesive album experience many remember from a time before single-song downloads.

“When you went back to listen to Marvin Gay, or Diana Ross or the Supremes and etcetera, we knew the funk that was on that record, there is a key integral sound. It’s very, very important,” she said.

“An album was an experience, and that’s what needs to come back.  It’s so song driven, that you’ll know the person’s single and that’s pretty much it … (an album) is about creating a body of work that has that common thread going through it, where you could enjoy more than one song,” Black said.

Beyond making music, Black is building community through music.

As a part of that, Alexander and her have begun an initiative called CHAT.

“The acronym stands for Changing How Artists Think.  It really starts with how you think. And so we need to come together with like-minds and do something of a positive influence … if we could change the way we think, we could make a difference.”

“It’s the new Motown sound. You know if Tina Turner and Etta James were to have a baby it would be Jully Black."

“There’s so much that starts with the way you think,” she affirmed.

“It’s really all about intention. Why do you do what you do, why have you chosen what you’re even doing right now? You’re taking the time to speak to me and get inside. There are some people that want to be in the music business just to be famous. What do they think comes with that?

Black believes strongly that artists and musicians and anyone with a following has a responsibility to consider how they impact their fans.

“We’ve been given this platform and some don’t realize that with that platform comes responsibility.”

In a day when there’s so many kids and youth that looks to the artists … for inspiration or direction or that they aspire to be like. It’s like ‘Ok, well you have that power to really lead a generation’,” She said.

Black hopes she imparts a sense of strength to her listeners.

“Resilience and determination and humility and that people realize that we’re all the same.  If you put a garbage man on television every day he would be a celebrity or she would be a celebrity. So really realizing that the value that is placed on being popular, -- it isn’t – you’re not any better than the person that isn’t being seen all the time,” Black said.

Community building also means bringing music to those who don’t often get to hear it.

“We did northwestern Ontario run about a year ago.”

During the tour she noticed that people in the remote communities they went to seemed to not value themselves enough to accept being entertained by others.

“We’re in a place where (live) music isn’t really heard at all. Like that’s a vehicle that really could connect us all. It’s the one language that we all speak and understand, no matter what, no matter where you are from or what class people place you in,” she said.

“Be it reserves, reservations, or community centres, churches or Air Canada centres – the people matter…”Black said.

The tour was a success however, bringing together schools, students, teachers, adults and the wider community.

“We were able to have cross-cultural platform where most people that came to the show, that bought tickets at these theatres, you wouldn’t expect to be in the same concerts,” she said.

The response was strong with Black receiving numerous emails and letters about how grateful people where to experience something like that.

“All the boundaries where down, like it was a show of equality and love and everyone was free to just be themselves, it was really really cool,” she said.

While this tour does not include any community shows, Black intends to continue breaking boundaries between people with music. She is also interested in connecting with schools or community centres in Saskatchewan’s North that would be interested in working with her on a similar project.

As for the show at the E.A. Rawlinson on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m., Black said the audience can expect fun and lots of it.

“It will be extremely interactive,” Black said.  

Tickets are $43.05 for adults and $24,68 for students with valid student ID.




Organizations: E.A. Rawlinson Centre, Supremes, Air Canada

Geographic location: Toronto, Canada, Prince Albert Second Avenue Jamaica Kanye West Singapore London England Atlanta Northwestern Ontario Saskatchewan

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